Sunday, 2 August 2009

An afternoon flicking through 'When you're a boy'

(When you're a boy) You can wear a uniform (When you're a boy) Other boys check you out (You get a girl) These are you favourite things (When you're a boy)
David Bowie and Brian Eno, Boys Keep Swinging (1979)

Two weeks have passed since the opening of Simon Foxton's When you're a boy exhibition at the Photographer's Gallery and the closest I've got to the images is the Gallery Shop whilst seeking shelter from (one of many) Summer downpours. Alas, we just didn't have enough time to explore the exhibition space fully so rather than trudge my sodden hi tops around I just picked up the exhibition catalogue. For those of you who have not been to able to see the exhibition yet, why not make yourself a cup of tea, sit in a comfy chair and pour over the pages as I have done this afternoon and marvel at Foxton's amazing body of work...

From 'Punk', photographed by Nick Knight. Published in The Face, Feb 1986

The exhibition explores exactly what a great stylist contributes to a fashion photograph beyond selecting clothes and dressing models. Through the impressive body of work of pre-eminent menswear stylist, the exhibition traces the growth and development of men's fashion over the past three decades. Foxton has deservedly built himself a reputation as one of the leading image-makers of men’s fashion; anticipating and defining key shifts in menswear design throughout. the 80s, 90s and 00s. Foxton's interest in masculinity, ethnicity and sexuality are captured in images shot by photographers and longtime collaborators Alistair McLellan, Nick Knight and Jason Evans. Foxton's contribution to fashion photography goes way beyond the production process that precede a shoot, and towards offering a benchmark of taste; it is a singular world view. In combination with longstanding photographic partners (Knight, Evans, McLellan) who each bring their own specific perspectives to bear on the work produced, Foxton's unique perspective inspires discrete and different bodies of work.

Left: From 'Punk', photographed by Nick Knight. Published in The Face, Feb 1986. Right: From 'War' photographed by Nick Knight. Version published in Big, No.18, 1987

Elements of the styling practice that Foxton had been responsible for popularising in the 1980s - street casting, customisation, inveigling non-fashion accessories into shoots, using 'model's' own clothing - were crucial in shaping the identity of my favourite magazines whilst growing up and beyond. Foxton began styling for i-D in 1984, at a time when the visual language of fashion photography was still being established. Since then he has contributed to my favourite magazines and more including The Face, Arena, Arena Homme Plus, Vogue Hommes International, Details, W, GQ Style and Big Magazine. Without his work, the magazines that we know and love would certainly not be the same.

From 'Strictly', photgrpahed by Jason Evans. Published in i-D, July 1991

There is a great Penny Martin interview with Simon Foxton in his garden shed featured inside the catalogue, below are a few of my favourite questions and answers...

Penny Martin: How did you make the shift from designing to styling?
Simon Foxton: When I had my own little design company, I found the whole process of from imagining the clothing to the realisation and production such a long, laborious and tedious journey. The idea that I could come up with ways of dressing people to make them look different and for it to happen almost immediately was like a big light going on in my head. I thought "I don't have to deal with factories in the East End, or order buttons. I can actually come up with ideas and make them happen within a week."

From 'Hey there fancy pants', photographed by Jason Evans. Published in i-D, May 2004

Penny Martin: If not money, what do you think still motivates you after twenty five years?
Simon Foxton: It is only when you stop and look at it, like now, with doing an exhibition, that you think "God, I have been doing this for twenty five years! Why?" I don't know. It is partly because it is fun. The commercial things can be tough but the editorial is usually great: having a freehand to make images. Once that whole character is there, it's almost like giving birth. I've created this thing and it's like "wow, I've not seen that before, a person dressed in that way." That is enough for me.

From 'Atlas', photographed by Alasdair McLellan. Published in Arena Homme Plus, AW 2003/04

With wit, sophistication and irreverence, Foxton continues to redefine perceptions of masculinity with his uniquely thrilling and fantastical portrayals of men. During his twenty five year career, Foxton has evolved a highly recognisable and much emulated approach to creating fashion photography. An approach which sees him balance a deep respect for traditional men’s fashion design with an injection of street culture, popular imagery and much needed humour. He is quite simply the quintessential menswear stylist, consistently progressing men’s fashion and truly deserves this exhibition. If you are in town anytime from today until October 17th, you have to make a trip to this exhibition...if you've already been, please let us know what you thought.

Selection of shots published in i-D, unpublished work and webcasts on


Anonymous said...

It is a brilliant show but you have to see it in person. The video on the hanging of the show is great too (it's on in the cafe) and is a real insight into Simon Foxton as well. The book doesn't do the show justice.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Anonymous: I will certainly drop by at least once to fully check out the show. The video sounds greats, I'm already looking forward to grabbing a coffee and making myself comfortable in the cafe.

Anonymous said...

Nice imagery. I like your point of view shots as well.


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